Saturday, March 27, 2010

D.C. looks to state programs for answers on medical marijuana

Law Makers are searching for answers as to how to best regulate the growing medical marijuana industry. It is no longer a tabu subject matter, as we can see from this front page article in the Washington Post.

By Ann E. Marimow, Washington Post Staff Writer

Los Angeles imposed strict limits on medical marijuana shops this year after hundreds of them popped up with little government oversight. Colorado is still wrestling with how to ensure legitimate doctor-patient relationships after the number of people applying to use medical marijuana surged dramatically in a six-month period.

And in the District, elected officials are trying to learn from what they consider cautionary tales from other jurisdictions as they try to create a program that strikes a delicate balance: allowing safe access to the drug for those who need it, while avoiding the kind of abuse by recreational users that would attract a backlash from Congress.

More than a decade has passed since District voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for medical treatment. But it was not until December, with Democrats controlling Congress and the White House, that city lawmakers considered converting voter intent into reality. It helped that the Obama administration had urged federal prosecutors last fall not to interfere with local medical-marijuana laws.

Catania's bill, backed by most of his council colleagues, proposes five retail-style dispensaries throughout the city and prevents the shops from locating near schools or youth centers. If the measure is approved, District residents with a doctor's recommendation could legally purchase the drug as early as the fall. However, District officials must decide whether five is the right number of dispensaries for a city of 600,000 residents, where the seeds would be planted, what requirements to set for doctors who recommend medical marijuana, and which conditions would qualify for the treatment beyond illnesses such as AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis.


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